Iowa's new statewide assessment, leadership standards, math and early childhood collaboration

lead tech learn

November 8, 2018     Vol. 10

School principal and teacher in classroom

New standards for educational leaders

Stronger emphasis on equity, professional growth noted

To reflect the changes in standards for administrators made at the national level, Department leadership is engaging stakeholders in the process of reviewing and revising the Iowa Standards for School Leaders (ISSL).


ISSL have provided guidance to administrative training programs and licensing since the late 1990s and have undergone several revisions. Most currently, a revision is being considered to bring Iowa’s standards into closer alignment with the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL), according to Matt Ludwig, educational leadership consultant for the Bureau of Leading, Teaching, Learning Services.


These standards were developed by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration, an organization whose membership includes the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, the American Association of School Administrators, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration, the National School Boards Association, and the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA). The updated PSEL were released in 2015.


According to Ludwig, a geographically diverse team is being reconvened which includes representation from superintendents, principals, curriculum directors, AEA chiefs, and higher education. Ludwig and Dana Schon, professional learning director from the School Administrators of Iowa, are co-facilitating the group. The team recommended the PSEL standards for Iowa, but wanted them to be reviewed within the Iowa context. The work ahead of the team will be this review.


"The biggest change in the standards," Ludwig said, "is the emphasis they place on equity, professional growth for teachers and administrators, and curriculum, instruction, and assessment."


For more information, contact Matt Ludwig at or 515-559-7250.

Iowa Assessment of Student Progress

Statewide assessment

Iowa Testing Programs gears up in developing the new tests

Last legislative session, HF2235 designated Iowa Testing Programs to develop the next statewide assessment. This is the first in a three-part series of stories featuring Iowa Testing Programs on the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP).


Iowa students in grades 3 through 11 will be taking the ISASP this spring. The test will include the following content areas and grades:

  • Reading  – grades 3-11
  • Language/Writing (which includes grammar and mechanics) – grades 3-11
  • Mathematics – grades 3-11
  • Science – grades 5, 8, 10

Although these tests are not timed, the recommended time allotment is 60 minutes each for the reading, mathematics, and science tests, and 120 minutes for the language and writing test. The test will be available in paper/pencil and online.


Tim Hazen, the director of Test Development with Iowa Testing Programs (ITP), said the window for test administration begins in March and extends through May.


English Language Arts skills tested will include reading comprehension, text-based writing, mechanics and usage. Artificial Intelligence will be used to score the writing, which will include the following considerations: the use of evidence from text; organization; language use, tone, and style; and production of writing, which includes the student’s ability to address the topic and produce a cohesive argument.


In mathematics, the skills tested align to the grade level focus areas of the Iowa Core Mathematics Standards and item types will include multiple choice, technology enhanced item type, and shorter constructed response.


In science, the assessment will focus on the three dimensions of the Iowa Core Science Standards: practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. “We spent a lot of time and resources on this ‘Next Generation’ science test,” Hazen said. “What we’re asking is just not recall, but is application of the skills students are learning. We’re excited about this test coming out in the spring.”


Students, schools, and districts can expect to get reports on the results of the assessment after the completion of a standard setting study.  Proficiency and readiness indicators will be reported after the first year.  Growth indicators will be available after year two.


According to Hazen, ITP has undertaken multiple efforts to ensure the alignment of the test to the Iowa Core standards. “Everything from the initial writing of test items through item review, including having two panels review the items specifically for alignment to the Iowa Core, has been done to make sure our materials were meeting or exceeding those expectations,” he said.


In June, ITP brought in teachers to review the initial set of materials for their alignment. For the second study, ITP contracted with an external vendor. The goal of this study was to confirm that the assessment appropriately assesses the breadth and depth of the Iowa Core. As a part of this process, HumRRO conducted workshops where 40 Iowa educators were trained to perform the alignment tasks, looking at both the content of the item and its Depth of Knowledge. A broad representation of teachers from across the state from both larger and smaller districts was included in this work, Hazen said.


HUMRRO has been working on a report that ITP will use as part of the test development process, but some preliminary feedback has already allowed ITP to make some changes to the tool, Hazen said. Text complexity, appropriateness of the passages to the grade, and appropriateness of the blueprints are some of the issues on which HumRRO provided feedback.


ITP plans to release information on the new assessment as it is developed. That information can be found at

Voice from the Field logo

Do you read Voice From the Field?

In this month's Voice from the Field, Ames Middle School Art teacher Cappie Dobyns writes about how she is using the Iowa's Fine Arts Standards to assess not just the final product, but the process students use to develop and create their artwork. Focusing on the process, she writes, is important in helping students transfer their knowledge to their experiences and across disciplines.

Adorable preschool female student

Early childhood and mathematics collaboration

Teams learning the importance of early mathematics skills

The Early Childhood and Mathematics Statewide Leadership Teams have teamed up to gain a new understanding of the interrelationship of mathematics between the Iowa Early Learning Standards and the Iowa's Mathematics Standards.


According to Kimberly Villotti, administrative consultant, and April Pforts, mathematics consultant, members of these two leaderships teams are meeting collaboratively four times throughout the 2018-19 school year to learn important concepts and instructional practices to support mathematics in early childhood education. Based upon this learning, they anticipate that the teams will jointly plan and deliver professional learning for early childhood teachers in classrooms preschool through grade three.


“We saw multiple efforts going on in literacy, but felt like mathematics as well as other topics had been partially sidelined,” Villotti said. “We agreed it was time to address needs in mathematics in early childhood."


Pforts said multiple skill areas need to be addressed early on. “We know that skills like verbal counting, cardinality, and subitizing start as early 12 to 24 months.” (Subitizing is the ability to tell the number of objects in a set, quickly, without counting.) “Just because a five-year-old might be able to count doesn’t mean that he or she understands quantity and can compose and recompose numbers,” she said.


“We’d like to see conversations about concepts and skills like these happening throughout the child’s day. We’re hoping to learn how to embed these conversations throughout the environment and in the scope of what early childhood programs offer,” Villotti said.


For more information, contact Kimberly Villotti at or 515-725-0652 or April Pforts at or 515-314-6243.

Teacher reading to young students

New this fall

ELPA21 screener provides timely, useful information for English Language Learners

A new literacy screening assessment tool is being introduced into English Language Learner (ELL) programs this fall. The ELPA21 Dynamic Screener is an improvement over its predecessor, the TELPA, according to Tori Albright, World Languages Coordinator for the Sioux City Community School District.


Albright said they have screened over 100 students since August 1 using the ELPA21 Dynamic Screener and have found that the tool is meeting their expectations. “It’s more aligned with the ELPA summative assessment, it’s more diagnostic, and it helps us know what instruction this student actually needs,” she said.


Albright described it as a “huge change. We went from a paper and pencil screener to computer-based screener. We needed headphones, computers, and a space for the technology. It took a while to work out the kinks,” she said. But she credits the ELPA21 Help Desk and the Department for helping the district problem-solve.


Another advantage of the new screener is its multiple stopping points. “If it is apparent that the student needs to be placed in English language services, he or she does not have to be frustrated by trying to work through the whole assessment,” Albright said.


The new screener is computer scored and the results are available immediately, Albright said. “That is very helpful in placing students and communicating with parents.”

For more information, here's a link to the ELPA21 Contact List.

Iowa Core Advocates Logo

Improve English/Language Arts Standards implementation through Core Advocates

This year we will examine what it means to be an advocate for standards-based education, and support participants to engage with the content knowledge and resources needed to support themselves, colleagues, and students on the path of a college- and career-ready education. The content is developed so that participants can easily take the activities and resources back for use in their learning community.


In October's webinar, we built the foundation from which participants will analyze how the Standards and Shifts frame rigorous instruction. Specifically, we looked at the Standards through the lens of equity and learning was grounded in conversations about the roles that race, bias, and prejudice play in our schools and classrooms. Participants explored the relationship between reading and text complexity to college and career readiness, which is part of Shift 1. In next month’s webinar, scheduled for November 20 from 7-8 PM, we’ll delve deeper into the components of text complexity and analysis of texts to determine complexity. Access a recording of the October webinar, along with the slide deck on the Iowa Core Advocate website under the "Learn" tab.


For more information, contact Destiny Eldridge at or (515) 822-2554.

Middle school students in shop class

Perkins Act Reauthorization

Writing Iowa’s transition plan to involve many stakeholders

In July 2018, Congress reauthorized Perkins funding for Career and Technical Education and required each state to develop a full plan or transition plan, which must be in place by July 1, 2010. The reauthorized bill is called Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act and is known as Perkins V.


Pradeep Kotamraju, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Bureau Chief, will lead the work to develop Iowa’s transition plan. Kotamraju says his team is in the study phase for the transition. “We’re reading documents, looking at the information that has been released, and waiting for more information,” he said. “We expect to get official information about what is required of states in January 2019.”


Kotamraju said the content of the plan is “not a big issue” because a lot of it will stem from HF239, the CTE redesign bill, which was passed in 2016 and builds upon the recommendations made by the Secondary CTE Task force.


The CTE redesign will:

  • Improve access to high-quality CTE through a statewide system of regional planning partnerships to assist school districts in providing an effective, efficient, and economical means of delivering programs.
  • Encourage alignment of secondary CTE offerings to in-demand occupations to meet the needs of employers.
  • Reform career and academic planning and CTE programming to encourage students to explore opportunities aligned to their interests through holistic career guidance, exploratory CTE coursework, and work-based learning opportunities.


The process, Kotamraju said, will be comparable to what was done for the development of Iowa’s plan for Every Student Succeeds Act, in that it will involve gathering feedback from multiple stakeholder groups. “Many, many stakeholders will have input into the development of the plan,” Kotamraju said.


For more information, contact Pradeep Kotamraju at, 515-281-4716 (O) or 515-314-7852 (C).